Mop Mop ‘Isle of Magic’ CD/LP/Digital (Agogo/!K7) 3/5

Italian group Mop Mop take as their starting point the Afrocentric grooves of US collective Oneness of Juju circa 1976 and the ‘African Rhythms’ album that has become a cult classic. The brainchild of Italian born composer and producer Andrea Benini now resident in Berlin, who also performs on drums and percussion, Mop Mop is driven by the desire to explore the multifarious rhythms of the drum and a pan-African sound and ethos. The moody and downtempo number ‘Loa chant’ with vocals supplied by guest Sara Sayed is a winner and it is a pity there are not other similar cuts on the album. Jazzy vibes are present on the incessant riff of ‘Phantom of the panther’ with a lovely clarinet solo while steel pans are a prominent feature of the instrumental ‘Kamakumba’. A heavyweight percussive workout is in operation on ‘The Golden bamboo’. Where Mop Mop could improve is in diversifying the type of numbers they perform. Incorporating keyboards and vocals more is a necessity and would add a welcome variety to listening to their sound over an entire album. Anthony Joseph narrates on the percussive and heavy bassline-led ‘Let I go’ and on ‘Heritage’ which recounts the cultural heritage of Africa and struggle against colonisation. Italy has contributed greatly to the dancefloor side of the jazz scene in the last fifteen or so years and Mop Mop can certainly be added to the already impressive roster of Nicola Conte, Paolo Scotti and labels such as Schema.

Tim Stenhouse